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Newport Beach in the Rearview Mirror
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Newport Beach in the Rearview Mirror

Author: Hosted by William Lobdell

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A look back at the events and people—famous and forgotten—that shaped Newport Beach. Follow on Instagram (

36 Episodes
There’s no chunk of land in Newport Beach that’s more historic and has been more malleable than the Castaways. Its chameleon-like ability, enabled by its prime location overlooking the bay and ocean, has given the Castaways nine distinct lives–some historically critical, others largely forgotten, some lasting millions of years, others gone after less than a decade. The one thing they have in common: they are all fascinating. 
In 1909, W.S. Collins wanted to massively increase the footprint of his Balboa Island development. The land extension would have cut the width of Newport Harbor's main channel by more than half. In those days, the federal government had final approval of any plans for the harbor, so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent Captain D.E. Hughes to assess the situation. In just 960 words, he delivered a masterpiece of a report (part love letter, part manifesto) that amazingly predicted the future of Newport Beach and its harbor with great precision and beautifully laid out the argument that the harbor's waterways should be reserved for the people's enjoyment and not a developer's profits.His observations killed Collins' plans for a super-sized Balboa Island and set the precedent that the harbor should be enjoyed by all. 
In 1984, the first swim test required to join Newport Beach's new junior lifeguard program drew all of three kids. Today, that number has soared to more than 1,500. In an insightful, revealing and occasionally emotional interview, Reenie Boyer–the pioneering female lifeguard and architect of Newport Beach Junior Lifeguards–talks about the origins and evolution of the most successful youth program in city history.
The rock-solid foundation for Newport Beach's prized lifeguard operation goes back more than 100 years, forged in tragedy and a Russian immigrant’s belief in 1923 that a city lifeguard department–a rarity in those days–could prevent the frequent drownings that had been occurring in Newport Beach for a half-century, ever since 1870, the year a “new port” was established. In just a few short years, the Russian, Antar "Tony" Deraga would single-handedly remake Newport Beach lifeguards into one of the most elite units in the world–a distinction it still retains today.
J.J. Moon was more Paul Bunyon than Kelly Slater. The surf hero of the 1960s was the alter ego of Ned Eckert, a very average weekend surfer–and still a Newport Beach resident, by the way–who enthusiastically embraced a practical joke played on him in 1964 by some world’s best surfers and ran with it until he became a near mythical figure sitting atop the surf world. It’s true that J.J. Moon may have not been the world’s greatest surfer, but he did pull off the biggest hoax in the history of the sport. 
Newport Beach’s rich journalistic history dates to 1870, only a few days after a “new port” was established in Upper Newport Bay and the Los Angeles Star reported the news. Over the years, many local newspapers have come and gone, almost all making some kind of mark on the city. This episode looks at the long line of newspapers that have tried to capture the city's heart (and advertising dollars) and takes a deeper dive into the success of the Daily Pilot, Newport's G.O.A.T publication. Special guests: Former Daily Pilot Publisher Tom Johnson and former Editor Tony Dodero. 
When the 1953 National Boy Scout Jamboree came to town, the event created an insta-city of 50,000 Scouts and their leaders in the rolling hills of what's now Newport Center/Fashion Island, Big Canyon and Eastbluff. Guest interview: Don Webb, former Newport Beach council member and mayor who attended the Jamboree as a 14-year-old Scout.
For more than six decades beginning in the 1880s. Lido Isle went through a series of owners (most of whom got the island basically for free) and failed developments before—in the latter part of the 20th Century—it turned into some of the most coveted real estate on the West Coast.  
Ever wonder how a Newport Beach road, school, park, surf spot, canyon or even an offshore rock formation got its name? There's a sadness to the fact that the name's meaning--which was so obvious back in the day--has been lost, something only after a few decades. Time is a thief, and it quickly robs us of the knowledge of such things as why a ravine in Corona del Mar is called Buck Gully, how Jamboree Road got its name or who was Apolena of Apolena Avenue fame, one of the only streets on Balboa Island not named after a gemstone.Well, time may be a thief, but we've taken back what's ours. There's the story behind 40 names that can be found around Newport Beach.
How many cities in California can say they are home to eight islands? Just one: Newport Beach. We take a look at the histories of the eight residential islands in Newport Harbor: Balboa Island, Little Balboa Island, Collins Island, Bay Island, Lido Isle, Newport Island, Harbor Island and Linda Isle. 
The most famous Newport Beach resident of all time? That's easy. John Wayne. When he lived in Newport in the 1960s and 70s, the Duke, as he was called, reigned as the world's most famous movie star.  In this episode, the Duke's youngest son, Ethan Wayne, talks about growing up in Newport Beach with an American icon as a father.
Completed in 1906, the Balboa Pavilion on the Newport Harbor bayfront is Newport Beach’s oldest, most historic, and most beautiful building, beloved by artists, photographers, locals and visitors alike. It’s the city’s version of the Eiffel Tower. But for being so famous, much of the 100-plus-year history of the pavilion has been long forgotten. Until now. In this episode, we reveal 12 amazing secrets of the pavilion’s long reign as the queen of Newport Beach. 
A sea captain's decision in 1870 that resulted in countless deaths at the entrance to Newport Bay over the next half-century. A decades-long attempt to turn Newport Harbor into a commercial port. A short-sighted agreement in 1928 to place the Orange County Airport on the banks of Upper Newport Bay. Newport Beach, in one form or another, has been around for more than 150 years, and over that time, there's been some terrible ideas floated, and some even implemented. In the final installment of this three-part episode, we countdown the 6th to the 1st worst ideas in Newport Beach history. 
Trying to develop Corona del Mar in the early 20th Century. Planning for Fashion Island to be an indoor shopping center. Proposing to jam 80,000 residents (for context, Newport's population today is about 87,000) into the Newport Coast. Newport Beach, in one form or another, has been around for more than 150 years, and over that time, there's been some terrible ideas floated, and some even implemented. In the second installment of this three-part episode, we count down the 12th to the 7th worst ideas in Newport Beach history. 
A race-car track on Balboa Island. Surfboard licenses. Tearing down the China House. Newport Beach, in one form or another, has been around for more than 150 years, and over that time, there's been some terrible ideas floated, and some even implemented. In the first installment of this three-part episode, we countdown the 20th to the 13th worst ideas in Newport Beach history. 
On a sunny day in the spring of 1971, a ragtag group of adventures gathered on a Newport Beach hilltop to participate in the first hang-gliding meet in modern history. A front-page story in the Los Angeles Times and an eight-page spread in National Geographic magazine about the rickety flying machines and their pilots captured the imagination of readers around the world and launched the sport of hang gliding.  
The mostly forgotten, rich history of the many bridges of Newport Beach, beginning in 1889.
Legendary architect and Corona del Mar resident Ron Yeo counts down the seven best examples of architecture in Newport Beach.
At the end of the Balboa Peninsula, the Wedge is internationally recognized as the world's best (and most dangerous) bodysurfing spot. In this episode, learn:How the Wedge was created by a manmade accident in 1936.Why no one dared to ride the Wedge for decades.Why bodysurfing at the Wedge faced extinction twice.How a rag-tag group of bodysurfers formed the Wedge Crew and has ruled the break for more than 50 years (all while wearing just Speedos).How bodysurfing the uniquely dangerous wave has led to leading innovations in the sport.The art of bodysurfing is being preserved through new generations of the Wedge Crew.Guest: Tim Burnham, Wedge Crew member and producer and director of the award-winning surf documentary, "The Dirty Old Wedge."
In this pop quiz on Newport  Beach's origins, you’ll be tested on:Why Newport Landing (Newport’s Plymouth Rock and first port, which is on the site of what’s now the Lower Castaways) became a ghost town virtually overnight after a successful 18-year run.What ingenious method did Newport’s pioneers use to widen and deepen the entrance to Newport Bay in 1876. (It's mindboggling!)How the McFadden brothers, Newport’s founding fathers, selected the site for their oceanside wharf (eventually replaced by the Newport Pier) to accommodate the largest commercial ships of the era.What was the fatal design flaw in the construction of the first wharf that caused its destruction after just four years after completion.How many structures, including warehouses, shanties and a two-story home, were moved from Newport Landing inside the bay to McFadden Wharf on the ocean. (You'll never guess!)
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